GEORGETOWN, South Carolina
Marianne Williamson was in the pulpit at Bethel A.M.E. Church Sunday morning, and the sermon she was preaching began with a reference to Esther, the Jewish wife of Persia’s King Xerxes, who saved her people from destruction by the king’s evil minister, Haman. Williamson evoked Esther as “a vessel for the salvation of her people” who were “disadvantaged and oppressed.” Certainly this Bible-based message about deliverance resonated with the black congregation, whose historic church dates back to the 1860s. However, the woman in the pulpit, who has been called Oprah Winfrey’s “spiritual guru,” had not come to the South Carolina lowlands as an author promoting her books, but rather as a candidate for the Democratic Party’s 2020 presidential nomination.
“Being American does not only give us rights, it gives us responsibilities,” Ms. Williamson told the congregation. “This country must have a great rising up.”
For all the talk about the Religious Right’s role in Republican politics, little attention is paid to the influence among Democrats of the Religious Left, of which Ms. Williamson is a recognized leader. And if the odds against her winning her party’s 2020 presidential nomination are a million-to-one, there are nonetheless serious Democrats who believe she can achieve such a miracle. One of them is Dr. Gloria Bromell Tinubu, state director of the Williamson campaign. An experienced politician who served in the Georgia legislature before returning to her native South Carolina, Dr. Tinubu was twice the Democratic nominee for Congress in the 7th District, getting more than 100,000 votes against Republican Rep. Tom Rice in this deep “red” district. Dr. Tinubu introduced Ms. Williamson at Bethel A.M.E. by saying, “I consider her a sister,” which is about as strong an endorsement as any Democrat needs here.
The reason Democrat hopefuls like Ms. Williamson have been flocking to South Carolina the past several weeks is that the Democratic National Committee has made poll standings in the Palmetto State one of the criteria by which candidates can qualify for the first round of the party’s televised presidential debates, which begin in June. DNC Chairman Tom Perez has expressed a desire to have a wide-open primary, a response to Democrats who resent the way their party’s 2016 nomination process was stacked in favor of Hillary Clinton. Much like conservatives whose resentment of GOP Establishment meddling supplied the Tea Party with grassroots energy in 2010, Democrat activists this time around are in no mood for middle-of-the-road candidates.
Despite the fact that Joe Biden is currently the Democrat front-runner in the Real Clear Politics average of national polls, the former vice president’s chances of winning his party’s 2020 nomination aren’t very good. For one thing, Biden is old — four years older than President Trump — and for another thing, he is a white male. Democrats are now so irrevocably committed to the race-and-gender calculus of identity politics that it may be impossible for any white man ever again to win the party’s presidential nomination. Trump said last week that his “dream” would be to run next year against Biden, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, or former Texas Rep. Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke. Was it a coincidence that Trump named three white male Democrat contenders, or does the president understand that major Democrat constituencies would be less energized if their party fails to nominate a woman or a minority in 2020? As much as all Democrats hate Trump with the heat of ten thousand suns, a contest between two old white guys wouldn’t do much to inspire enthusiasm in the “intersectional” Left. Even though polls suggest Biden has the best chance to beat Trump, grassroots Democrats aren’t exactly excited by the prospect of an elderly party hack like Biden as their nominee. Sanders is also an old white guy, and the problem with the young white guy (besides being white and male, both now synonyms for evilin the left-wing lexicon) is that O’Rourke (a) is rich and (b) often voted with Republicans during his three terms in Congress. Many readers might think that (b) shows O’Rourke is a sensible centrist who could win back some voters the Democrats lost in 2016, but if that’s what you think, you’re obviously not a Democrat primary voter. What left-wing Democrats want is not sensible centrism, but an all-out war against capitalism, of which they consider Donald Trump the incarnate symbol. The radical Left will be disappointed if the Democrats nominate any candidate more “centrist” than, say, Pol Pot.